What I learned running for an elected position
Today more than ever, it seems that people get elected primarily by knowing what to say without necessarily knowing what to do. I hope we can get a little of both from Minneapolis Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges. Just to be sure, I'd like to share a story about the time I ran for political office during college.
I decided to run for student library privileges liaison because it seemed like a sinecure. With only one competitor and a single debate over lunch, I fancied myself a shoo-in. I remember formulating a plan for reciprocal library privileges with other colleges and borrowing a blue blazer from a frat brother. When the debate day came, I stepped up to the lectern and offered some sensible comments about my "platform." As I sat back down, I noticed two people making out in the back of the lunchroom. I'll never forget the next five minutes. A long-haired guy wearing boots, darkened glasses and a sweeping black cape ascended to the lectern and proceeded to rant for five minutes about the lack of LGBT representation on the student council and the searing injustice of apartheid in South Africa. I think the couple in the back ran down to kiss him.
It was then I learned that the trick to politics is being able to tell people what they want to hear without compromising who you are.
CHRIS BIRT, Minneapolis
BUS DRIVER FIRED
There's another side to this story …
I'm not crazy about bus drivers leading kids in Christian prayer, because of its exclusionary nature. But there's another side to the story of George Nathaniel ("Bus driver led students in prayer and lost his job," Nov. 6). As my grandson's bus driver, Nathaniel sought and gained my grandson's mom's approval of praying with him. A Christian pastor, the bus driver goes by the name "Apostle." I came to call him "The Magician."
Apostle and my grandson, both people of color, in a short time established an incredibly strong, mutually caring relationship, one that influenced my grandson beyond the bus ride. He had been having difficulty in school, but did a 180 shortly after Apostle became his driver. My grandson says there's a connection.
I believe it, after watching him come home with a big grin day after day, due to wholesome banter with Apostle. They connected around things my grandson was interested in — basketball, for starters. During this time, my grandson gave me a hug before he got on the bus each day and greeted me enthusiastically at the end of the day. This had not always been the case. Somehow, Apostle made it "cool" to grade-schoolers to be respectful and cooperative.
I understand the bus company's and school district's action in firing him after a warning notice. But I'm sorry Apostle isn't my grandson's bus driver anymore.
RICH COWLES, Eagan
FRANKEN AND THE ACA
I distrust the motive behind new concern
For the past five years, Al Franken has been a rubber-stamp vote for Harry Reid and the Senate Democratic programs, including Obamacare. He provided the 60th vote that allowed this monstrosity of a law to pass. So why after five years in office is he suddenly concerned about the effect of Obamacare on Minnesotans (Hot Dish Politics blog)? Oh, I forgot: He's up for re-election in 2014.
DAVID TEICHER, Plymouth, Minn.
Positive stories generate generosity
It seems the news these days consists only of reports regarding the latest crime or devastating stories. It is finally nice to see an article about a caring person helping others in need ("Knitters mend social fabric with hats for the homeless," Nov. 7). When acts of kindness circulate through the news, it inspires others to get up and help the people around them. They may not go as far as hand-knitting hats for the homeless; however, they still get motivated to give their time and efforts to improve the life of someone around them. Stories like this are what get people to challenge themselves to do something good and help the community.
BRYNNE DAVIS, Golden, Colo.
Earth visitations might face pretty long odds
The Nov. 7 Letter of the Day asked why, if planets like Earth are common, is it so far-fetched to believe that UFOs and aliens may be common occurrences on Earth? Let's answer that with some numbers.
First, we don't expect 40 billion Earthlike planets in the Milky Way. Twenty-two percent of sunlike stars (10 percent of the 300 billion in our galaxy) have an Earthlike planet, leaving 6.6 billion Earthlike planets. Let's say maybe half have the right conditions for life. Assume maybe one in four will develop intelligent life before a life-ending event.
Note that of several intelligent species on Earth, only humans have developed sophisticated technology like rockets. Let's say one in four survive longer than 100 years with both rockets and nukes. Four hundred million left. A sunlike star lives about 12 billion years before becoming inhospitable. Assume 4 billion years go by before anyone can develop rockets (we took that long). Let's say a space-faring age lasts, oh, 1 million years. So: 50,000 civilizations currently exploring space in our galaxy.
Our galaxy is 100,000 light years wide. That means on average, the nearest civilization is 500 light years away. Even going 1,000 times faster than Voyager 1, the fastest spacecraft we've built, it would take 7,000 years to reach the nearest star, which is only four light years away. So the nearest civilization is 1 million years away.
And these were some very generous numbers. See the problem?
ADIV PARADISE, Minneapolis